Antique Picture Frames: Some Thoughts Before Buying

Antique picture frames have their own unique charm and aesthetic value. They enhance the beauty of a portrait, a painting or even a mirror. They are more often than not very well-made and well-designed – with hand-crafted, sculpted or carved wood or intricate filigreed edges. There are also antique frames that have simple and classic lines.

Vintage picture frames are a testament of the extraordinary work of dedicated wood carving artists of centuries past. And the picture frames also bear a certain history. Because of their intrinsic value, craftsmanship, appeal and rarity, antique pictures are very expensive, especially if they are well-preserved and in good condition. Special care should be taken to ensure that what you are buying is the real thing.

Here are some of the things you should know if you are in the market for an antique picture frame:

  • Antique vs. Vintage. For a piece to be considered an antique, it has to be a century old or older. Some picture frames that are “younger” (from as early as the mid-20th century) may be classified as antique but more as vintage picture frames.
  • Buy from a reputable seller. It is best to get your antique picture frame from a seller that has a solid experience of vetting and checking the authenticity of the item and that has a reputation of honest dealings.
  • Checking to see whether it is a genuine antique. There are a number of unscrupulous sellers who try to pass off fairly new frames as antiques. Some indications of the authenticity of an antique picture frame would be the way the wood looks, as well as if there are any markings on the back. It used to be a practice among frame makers of old to put their craftsman or artist mark and the date the frame was made at the back. Meanwhile, look to see whether the wood has been aged naturally, where they are some signs of warping on the wood. It is very difficult to fake the aging process of wood so this can be a good indication of whether an item is an antique. Check the hardware for signs of aging as well. This includes discolorations on the metal and marks on the wood the hardware will have made over time. In cases, where the hardware was replaced, the marks of the old hardware may still be visible.
  • Glass replacement. In some cases, you will need to have the glass of the picture frame replaced because it already has cracks or discolorations. Victorian Frame Company provides convex glass replacements that are designed to fit an antique frame.
  • Look at the frame style. The design of the picture frames themselves will give an indication of how old the frames are. Here are some prevailing designs at specific era:
    • Early 19th Century. Clean and simple lines define the style of the early 19th century. These are often made using castings and wood veneers.
    • Mid-19th Century. The overall style of the Renaissance era would also be seen in the frames. These will feature silver and gold leaf surfaces or silver surfaces overlaid with golden lacquer.
    • Late 19th Century. The frames will usually have more ornamentation and design in the moldings, which are characterized by geometric or naturalistic patterns.
    • 20th Century. The era of Modernism is also reflected in the frames which go back to streamlined and simple moldings.
  • Going for the design. Sadly, genuine antique frames that are in good condition will be very expensive. Some frames that have not been well-preserved will already have warped or have been damaged by vermin or mold. If you want to have that “classic look” but not its price, you can consider getting solid wood picture frames that mimic the elegant lines and design of antique picture frames. Victorian Frame Company has a line of vintage picture frames that can also be fitted with convex glass to complete the look.
14th Jun 2014 Eric Morgan

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